Going Beyond "Potty Parity" in Chicago

Along with a host of changes now being adopted by the city of Chicago's plumbing code, the number of toilets in newly constructed or substantially retrofitted large venues has essentially doubled.


Along with a host of changes now being adopted by the city of Chicago's plumbing code, the number of toilets in newly constructed or substantially retrofitted large venues has essentially doubled.

"It's about time," says Kenneth Wentink, P.E., Cosentini Associates Inc., Chicago. "The 'potty parity' discussion has been going on a long time. It's nice to see that Chicago is jumping ahead."

Armed with the new code, engineers can now be part of the solution to the perennial long lines at ladies' rooms that are always found at stadiums, ballparks and theaters.

For example, according to Chicago's code, the numbers of required commodes at a 3,000-seat indoor theater have increased from 11 to 37 for women, and from 10 to 18 for men. At a 60,000-seat outdoor stadium the changes are even more significant: 66 to 410 toilets for women, and 66 to 205 for men.

"The plumbing code hasn't been rewritten since 1951, and it reflected very old building practices," explains Kristen Cabanban, spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Buildings. "This is our opportunity to bring the codes into the 21st century."

Cabanban also notes that the potty parity changes have attracted lots of national and media attention.

Wentink, who is also vice president of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers' research foundation, predicts that all this publicity may lead to similar changes in the national codes.

In addition to the new toilet requirements, John Bukalski, P.E., Environmental Systems Design, Chicago, points out a number of other Chicago plumbing code changes, including:

  • Floor drains are required in public toilet rooms.

  • Water pressure can be 100 psi in high-rise buildings.

  • Grease traps are no longer required at pantry sinks.

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